Earlier this month, the last of the furniture from Springfield College’s Manchester facility was removed. The college, based in Springfield, Massachusetts, had quietly closed the satellite location on Commercial Street in December.
Dennis Martino, a longtime state employee and adjunct professor at what was formerly called Springfield College’s School of Human Services, was its last director.
In July 2016 the college renamed the satellite program, which focuses on social services fields, the School of Professional and Continuing Studies. It operates nine similar satellites around the country.
Martino estimates there were about 300 students enrolled at the Millyard campus at its height in the late 1990s and early 2000s, many of whom commuted north from Massachusetts for weekend classes. But the college was looking to consolidate and hired consultants to study the viability of the satellite.
“Southern New Hampshire University, which is really a juggernaut these days, was a big competitor and right down the road,” Martino said.
He said the school was also struggling to compete with the least expensive state college, Granite State College, which offered some similar programs. Plus, while the other satellite locations are rentals, Springfield owns the suite on Commercial Street. As a result of closing the site, Martino thinks the college stands to earn between $1.5 million and $1.75 million for selling the property.
“They’ll get a good price for it,” Martino said. “I’m sure that was a factor.”
Springfield College spokesperson Elizabeth Belle Isle said the official reason for the campus’ closing was declining enrollment. By January 2016, when the decision to close the school was made, there were 26 full-time undergraduate students.
The school was also up against diminishing demand for higher education in the Northeast, where many people already have degrees, and an increased interest in online programs.
Manchester’s satellite, the school’s only New Hampshire location, was the original school to have a flagship human services program geared toward nontraditional students.
Former professor Paul Levy traces the history of the Manchester campus and the School of Human Services back to an experimental school called Franconia College.
“It was a residential college for young people, but it set up a new ... weekend program for working adults,” Levy said.
He said the school started in Franconia in the early 1970s but was bankrupt by 1978. What lived on was its hugely popular human services program, ahead of its time for catering to working adults and racial minorities.
The program started out with just the bachelor degree program and continued after Franconia College closed under the auspices of New Hampshire College — the former name of SNHU. By the late 1980s, Levy said, New Hampshire College jettisoned the human services program, and the School of Human Services found its permanent home with Springfield College.
As Levy tells it, Springfield College, a 130-year old private nonprofit college whose claim to fame is the invention of basketball, wanted to bolster its declining enrollment by offering an adult learner program to nontraditional students, and the School of Human Services was ready-made to do just that.
From the very start, Levy said, the program was exploring innovative modes of educating that have since become more mainstream, such as interdisciplinary studies, giving credits for experiential learning and offering seminar-style classes where students would sit in a circle and discuss a topic.
Eventually, the school added a couple of master’s programs for organizational leadership and mental health counseling, as well as criminal justice bachelor programs.
Students and staff move on
The announcement of the Manchester school’s closure last year led many part-time faculty and full-time staff members to leave for other employment opportunities. Some were offered jobs at the Boston campus.
The school once had about eight administrative staff members and between 20 and 30 adjunct professors, according to Martino. That number dwindled to single digits in the waning months of the school. Belle Isle said no full-time faculty or staff were laid off.
The campus stopped accepting students last May. Students who didn’t finish by December were given tuition discounts to continue in Boston or at the St. Johnsbury, Vermont, satellite campus. Others were offered the option to transfer via articulation agreements with SNHU and Granite State College.